Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on August 22, 2012 | 12 Comments

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Published by Henry Holt & Co (6.5.2012)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 358 pages
Source: NetGalley
Buy on Amazon

3 Stars

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

My thoughts

I found this book to be a bit disappointing. Maybe I was just expecting too much out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. But it didn’t wow me like I thought it would.

The beginning was very discouraging for me. There were so many terms and made up words thrown around without explanation that I very nearly gave up on it because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I really think the world should have been set up much more clearly. Even after finishing it, I don’t understand the makeup of the Grisha. Corporalnik, Corporalki, Materialnik, Etherealki…I have absolutely NO idea what the difference between them is. Or what they mean. Those words were used frequently in connection to the Grisha, but they were never explained. The only one that was explained was the oprichniki; the Darkling’s personal guard.

There were also a lot of Russian terms that I was left to figure out what they were from the context: kvas (some kind of drink), tsifil, lubok, kutya, tsaritsa, blini, sarafan. A couple of those I figured out after looking them up, but I don’t want to have to stop to look up words while I’m reading. It only takes a few words to insert a brief description of something, and that would have vastly improved my enjoyment (and understanding) of the book. Then there were the places. More crazy names thrown around, without any description whatsoever. Kribirsk, Os Kervo, Tsibeya, Keramzin (her home, I finally figured out), Os Alta (home of the Grisha), Ravka (the country?). And the other people of the country other than the Grisha: Fjerdans, the Shu Han, the Kerch – no background. I have no idea who they were or what they were like.

And then there was the page where Odinakovost (‘thisness’) and Etovost (‘thatness’) were attempted to be explained. I say attempted because I don’t think even Leigh knew what the hell she was talking about. Even Alina said her head was swimming trying to figure it out. Yeah, mine too. This book made my brain hurt a lot. I’m all for high fantasy, as long as things make sense and are well put-together. But if I have to struggle to understand the world, and I spawn a migraine trying, it tends to ruin the reading experience for me.

What I liked? The originality. The idea of the Grisha and the Small Science was fascinating. I thought the ability to manipulate the elements was brilliant, and I liked how the different ones had different colors – but that I would have liked an explanation of that, too. I know embroidery colors on the sleeves: silver was for Squallers, red for the Inferni, blue for Tidemakers. But I didn’t understand the different colors of kefta (cloak, I think?), because it was only mentioned in passing a few times.
The Shadow Fold was pretty awesome, and so were the Volcra. I had a clear picture of them in my head.

I thought Alina’s power was cool, too, and the idea of amplifiers. I couldn’t really connect with her, though. Or Mal. And I felt nothing for the romance. I did like the Darkling, though. I became attached to him from the beginning, even though his motives and morals were questionable.

I didn’t like how Alina handled the end scene in the Fold. What about all the other people on the skiff? Oh, well. I’ll probably read the next book, just to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be less confusing.

Favorite character: Probably Genya, she was spunky. She should have been the main character.

Plot: 4/5
Writing style: 3.5/5
Originality: 5/5
Characters: 3/5
World-building: 2/5
Overwhelming terms, too much confusion.
Pace: 3.5/5
Cover: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5 starfish
Good, not great. Confusing, but still worth the read.
Jessi (Geo)

Posted in: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Subscribe to Novel Heartbeat to get more posts like this!

12 responses to “Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Oh, now, that’s a shame! I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about this book, but I can understand that some things bothered you. Unexplained parts and a lot of difficult terms and names can be confusing and annoying, but something tells me I’m going to like it in this book ^^ I hope.. because it’s waiting for me on the shelves. Thanks for your honesty.

  2. Seems quite interesting, especially the made-up Russian terms. Corporalnik (made-up term for someone corporeal?), male singular form), Corporalki (same meaning, only female plural), Materialnik (male singular, a material person?), Etherealki (female ethearealists). The place names seem to be fictional, at least I haven’t heard about them.
    By the way, the translation of ‘Odinakovost’ to English is ‘uniformity, sameness’, ‘Etovost’ is actually ‘thisness’, and ‘thatness’ would be ‘Onovost’.

  3. The Russian terms went way over my head and I heard she got a lot of them wrong, too but I wouldn’t know. I still loved this one, though it was so imaginative and vivid. I loved the world building. I don’t remember the last scene to well to know what you mean about the people on the skiff, but I hope the sequel is less confusing especially now that we’re more familiar with the terms. Great review!

  4. I have found that I will get hyped about a book and then reading it is difficult as it did not live up to my expectations. That has happened to me quite often actually, so now I get excited about a read, but wait to read it until I have calmed down about. This is such a book. I have heard so much about it that it is nice to be forewarned. Of course reading is so subjective that I still want to read Shadow and Bone myself, but I will definitely be aware. Thank you for sharing with us, your opinion is appreciated.

  5. Great honest review! I think I must have skipped over all the Russian terms. I remember reading them, but was really absorbed in the plot. My favorite part was the Darkling. SUCH a great villain!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.